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Fast Stats: Housing Trends for Heads of School

Wednesday, August 23, 2017  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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By: Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell, Head of School, Currey Ingram Academy, Brentwood, TN

Published: August 2017



In this Fast Stats, several housing benefit measures are compared. Historically, the housing benefit, in various forms, has been used by independent school boards and independent school heads alike as a significant element in the compensation conversation.

Figure 1 compares the 2016-2017 percentage of all NAIS and SAIS heads who receive no housing benefit, a full housing benefit or a partial housing allowance. Among all NAIS schools, 53% of heads do not receive any housing benefit, while 66% of SAIS heads receive no benefit. A difference of 13%. Additionally, 34% of NAIS heads and 20% of SAIS heads receive a full housing benefit. That is, the total cost of the benefit is paid for by the school. Finally, 13% and 14% of NAIS and SAIS heads respectively, receive an allowance that covers at least part of the total benefit. Thus, 47% of NAIS heads receive some level of housing benefit compared with 34% of SAIS Heads. 

It is interesting to note that going back 15 years into the data reveals no increase in the overall percentage of heads receiving a housing benefit - this surprised me. The percentage of heads receiving the benefit has remained unchanged.

In Figure 2, a deeper dive is taken into the monetary value of housing allowances. The median annual amount of the housing allowance for NAIS and SAIS schools is compared across both off campus and on campus housing. It is clear from a quick glance that the annual benefit is greater for NAIS schools for both off campus ($36,000 vs $25,000) and on campus ($37,884 vs. $30,000) housing. It is also evident from the graph, that on campus housing typically is associated with a larger monetary value. Although marginally so for NAIS schools. Regardless, for the 47% of NAIS and 34% of SAIS heads who receive this benefit, it has a significant monetary value.

Finally, over the past 12 years the off and on campus amounts have indeed increased beyond inflation but really beyond the overall compensation packages for heads of school. 

An angle worth exploring is how connected this benefit is with being the head of a school that has a boarding program. If one assumes that virtually all heads of schools who have boarding programs receive a housing benefit, easy calculations can lead to the percentage of heads from day only programs that receive a housing benefit.

First, from Figure 3 you can see that only 16% of NAIS schools and 9% of SAIS have boarding programs, in any form. Thus, if 47% of all NAIS heads receive this benefit in some form, and 16% of those heads work in schools with boarding programs, then approximately 31% of NAIS day school heads receive this benefit. The same run down for SAIS numbers indicates that 22% of SAIS day school heads receive some kind of housing benefit. 

Concluding Thoughts

The housing benefit is an interesting animal. For example, whether the remuneration received for the benefit is taxable income or not depends on IRS guidelines surrounding the “nuisance factor”. Essentially, how much does your job depend on you having this particular house to perform specific school duties. Typically, if the house is on or very close to campus the IRS allows the housing benefit to go untaxed. To read more about the nuances of the housing benefit, NAIS has published some excellent resources on the topic in recent years.

The final thought on the housing benefit is that it is very much a trade-off between a potentially very nice (that is, untaxed) monetary benefit that, all other things being equal, frees you up from sinking money into mortgage interest. Versus, what duties are expected of you for that benefit. Not to mention living a typically very public life on campus. So, in the end, personal preference and lots of forethought must precede your decision about a housing benefit.



Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell is the head of school at Currey Ingram Academy in Brentwood, TN. He can be reached via email at



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